Hit the Slopes
Winterplace is just three hours north of Charlotte in West Virginia.
Face it. You didn't come to Charlotte for the snow. But even when it's a warm, sunny winter day here, there are plenty of places to satisfy your craving for downhill deeds of derring-do. Here are six ski resorts worthy of your time, all within a few hours of the Queen City — J. M.
Appalachian Ski Mountain
It's small, but it's the closest ski area to Charlotte. Appalachian Ski Mountain has twelve slopes, the longest being the intermediate halfmile Orchard Run. (Bonus: there are now three terrain parks for snowboarders, and the whole place is open for night skiing.) And when you're sick of the slopes, there's an ice arena on site and the shops of Blowing Rock are just ten minutes away. $54 for a Saturday pass.
DISTANCE FROM CLT: 2 hours
940 Ski Mountain Rd., Blowing Rock, 828-295-7828 appskimtn.com
A long drive from Charlotte but well worth the trip. Snowshoe has restaurants ranging from pizza joints to the upscale Ember. There's also nightlife and shopping, all in a small village right on top of the mountain. Make a weekend of it and rent a cabin or condo so you can step out your back door and on to the slopes. The skiing isn't so bad either: The resort has sixty slopes of varying degrees of difficulty,
including the steep and punishing Western Territory. It's in the middle of nowhere, but you won't need to leave the mountain to have a good time. $79 for a Saturday pass.
DISTANCE FROM CLT: 5 hours and 30 minutes
10 Snowshoe Drive, Snowshoe, WV, 877-441-4386 snowshoemtn.com
The first thing you see when you approach Sugar Mountain: the controversial Sugartop Condos, a tenstory mountaintop high rise that is the last of its kind. (N.C. lawmakers outlawed similar mountaintop skyscrapers after its completion to protect the outstanding views.) On the slopes, though, a 1,200foot vertical drop makes for long runs from the black diamond Whoopdedoo to the green Easy Street, a good one for beginners. Tubing and an outdoor ice rink are on site, and the slopes are close to Grandfather Mountain. $66 for a Saturday pass.
DISTANCE FROM CLT: 2 hours, 20 minutes
1009 Sugar Mountain Dr., Sugar Mountain, 828-8984521, skisugar.com
The peak of Beech Mountain is 5,506 feet above sea level making it the highest resort in the east. This resort has what other nearby slopes don't: a high-speed quad lift to help you get to the summit for intermediate and expert trails like Shawneehaw and White Lightning. Plenty of restaurants are right up the road in quaint Banner Elk, too, so you can wind down after a long day of hitting the slopes with a pint of beer and a burger. $60 for a Saturday pass.
DISTANCE FROM CLT: 2 hours and 30 minutes
1007 Beech Mountain Pkwy., Beech Mountain, 828-3872011, skibeech.com
Just head up Interstate 77 for three hours, cross into West Virginia, and you're at this ski area just south of Beckley. Winterplace's vertical drop isn't as long as other resorts, but you can find plenty to do on its twenty-eight runs and the largest snowtubing park in West Virginia. Stay nearby at The Resort at Glade Springs and get your lift ticket free. $62 for a Saturday pass.
DISTANCE FROM CLT: 3 hours
100 Old Flat Top Mt. Rd., Ghent, WV, 800-607-7669, winterplace.com
Sure, it only has nine slopes, but it's just three miles from downtown Gatlinburg, a vacation haven full of shops and pancake houses. Don't want to drive? Take the tramway from town and soak in beautiful views of the Smokies. There's a bungee tower and go-kart track at the base for the kids as well. $47 for a Saturday pass.
DISTANCE FROM CLT: 3 hours and 30 minutes
1001 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN, 865-436-5423, obergatlinburg.com
You can't hit the slopes without the proper skis, boots, jacket, and more. Here, a sampling of our favorite goods. —V. R.
|Stay warm and stylish in an insulated jacket, perfect for the Colorado peaks and cool Charlotte winters. The North Face Windwall Jacket, $249 Great Outdoor Provision Company 704-523-1089|
|Hop freshly-powdered hills in these shiny and sturdy red and black ski boots. Mission RS7 Ski Boots, $314 Alpine Ski Center 704-332-2824|
|Steer your way down the slopes with a pair of retractablehandled poles, easy to release on the lifts. Speed Triggers by Leki, $79-$100 Alpine Ski Center|